This preview is the fourth in our World Cup preview series, designed to provide a refreshing breath of Minnesotan air in an otherwise murky swamp of content. To encapsulate that oh-so-true concept of Minnesota nice, we’re looking for the most likeable teams in Russia 2018. To check out looks at other groups, head to our preview hub: https://www.epluribusloonum.com/2018/6/11/17449884/a-2018-world-cup-preview-but-minnesota-style-russia
If Peru are the potential darlings of the World Cup, then Nigeria have already run away as the belles of the ball. They’re not terribly new to the tournament, having qualified for the last two and made it out of the Group Stage in Brazil. The country’s large size has contributed to its on-the-field success, but there’s a certain charm to Nigeria, one that not everyone could pull off, that has the Super Eagles at the forefront of our likability competition. First it was the kit (see above). Then it’s tweets like the one below. All we want to do is don the sold-out shirt and let the positive vibes roll.
Though Portugal came away with the trophy, Iceland were the true winners of the 2016 European Championships in France. And now their “Viking Clap” has taken Minnesota by storm. The slow-clap has been rebranded as the Skol Chant and appeared everywhere during the Minnesota Vikings’ playoff run this winter. For a country of just over 300,000 people to qualify for the planet’s biggest sporting event is no small feat, but Iceland are not a team to write off. Their Euro 2016 run, which saw them eliminate England, means there are some expectations from this competition. Also, all but one of their players has a last name ending in “son.” Have fun keeping them apart, commentary teams.
The Argentines finished second to Germany in 2014. They’re fully expecting to finish first this time around, and there is a sense of urgency about the squad now. Lionel Messi won’t play forever, and though he is surrounded by plenty of top players, he himself will be pushing to add the most important trophy to his collection. So many large clubs are represented, it’s easy for fans to find a player to root for here: Chelsea, Manchester United, Roma, Manchester City, West Ham, PSG, Juventus, and Barcelona all have stars aboard. If only Argentina were in a different group, or at least one that didn’t have two darlings.
The checkerboard kit is always fun, and Croatia always proves to be an interesting mixture of big names (Luka Modric, Ivan Rakitic, Mario Mandzukic) and some lesser ones. There is an element of controversy to some parts of the squad, including Modric. Much like host Russia, there may be continued issues with fans, especially since fans oppose the country’s federation and its authority.